"Whilst not mandatory, we do strongly encourage our students to seek employment during summer and other holiday periods"
At Myerscough College, we have full and part-time courses in Sportsturf from levels 1 (Certificate) to 6 (BSc Hons). The majority of full-time students are on 1, 2 or 3 year programmes, which entail both academic learning but also practical training.
At Further Education levels 1-3, there is often a larger emphasis on practical skills acquisition, as these students will most often enter industry as greenkeepers and groundstaff, where their role is essentially 'hands-on' practising a variety of turf husbandry skills, preparing and restoring surfaces used for sport. We recognise, though, that our undergraduates need to have good practical skills if they are to succeed in industry.
Undergraduates come from a variety of backgrounds, including full-time education (A levels or Diploma), or from industry where they may have attained NVQs or equivalent. As such, in year one of our undergraduate programmes, we do train students in practical skills as well as more technical and scientific aspects of Sportsturf management.
Throughout our provision, we take working with industry partners very seriously as an important aspect of our work in delivering all our courses and training programmes.
Industry Links and Education
So, why do we work with industry?
Because our courses have a vocational core about equipping students with the skills and knowledge they need to practise in industry as greenkeepers and groundstaff. Also, as managers and agronomists, it is crucial that the training is to the standards required by the industry.
We have excellent links to a variety of employers, manufacturers, suppliers and organisations which have been established over many years as a leading college providing education and training for the Sportsturf Industry. For full-time students, these links benefit their educational experience here at Myerscough and assist in their development of both necessary technical skills and knowledge.
Work experience and research
One way our students engage with industry, and further develop their skills and knowledge, is through work experience with numerous golf courses, sports grounds and facilities. Whilst work experience is not a mandatory requirement for undergraduate courses, we do strongly encourage our students to seek employment during summer and other holiday periods. We work with employers and help organise interviews with Golf Course and Grounds Managers, often at Saltex and BTME.
We know that working in the industry is the best way to apply their college learning and improve, through practice, their practical competence. This can also give students experience of major sporting events and competitions.
Myerscough sportsturf students have worked at many Open Golf competitions around UK golf courses and also at Ryder Cup events in Europe and the USA. In other sports, they have worked at Wimbledon, Premiership football and UEFA Cup competitions and at cricket Test matches.
This obviously gives them experience of the pressures of sportsturf management at the highest levels and develops real skills, such as teamwork and communication, which are often just as critical as turf husbandry. Experience such as this cannot really be replicated in a college environment.
Students on further education courses work locally on golf courses and sports grounds one day a week to gain more experience. At Myerscough, we have our own golf course and sports pitches which are used commercially for sport, and students at all levels develop skills here before entering industry. For work experience overseas, we have worked for many years with Mike O'Keeffe who manages the Ohio State University Internship Programme, which has enabled many Myerscough sportsturf students to work on prestigious golf courses in the USA.
Students and staff also engage with industry through research and project work. This for part-time and online students often includes real work projects such as the construction of a new tee or the installation of drainage systems. It can also involve trial work for fertilisers and other turf maintenance materials including rootzones and topdressings.
Many students have conducted investigative work and research supported by many commercial suppliers. Such research is an integral part of undergraduate education and develops higher level academic skills such as diagnosis, problem solving inquiry and independent study. This has enabled many former students to be very successful in industry as managers of sports facilities but also as agronomists working to advise others in the industry.
Visits to sports facilities, golf clubs, machinery suppliers, dealers and specialist companies are a regular feature for our courses. This enables students to interact with industry professionals at all levels to learn more about the industry first hand.
Technical updating and CPD
A major benefit for both Myerscough staff and students of working with our colleagues and friends in the sportsturf industry is that it allows us to keep up to date with developments in technology and turf management resources. Anything from a new software package to the latest high tech greens mower have been used at Myerscough with the help of industry suppliers.
Our courses are regularly updated. Indeed, all our degree courses have just been revalidated, and we strive to provide the latest products and processes available for our students to learn and practise so, when they do enter the industry, their skills and knowledge are current. We are fortunate that we have many contacts and friends in commercial companies who kindly loan equipment or give of their time to speak with students.
Our major benefactors are Ransomes Jacobsen and Bernhard Limited - two well-known and respected machinery suppliers globally in sportsturf. At Myerscough, we operate a fleet of Ransomes Jacobsen turf maintenance machines and mowers. This includes machines such as the 322 Eclipse Greens mower - one of the most advanced machines of its type - which gives our students opportunities to work with the latest machines and technology.
Ransomes Jacobsen have also contributed by delivering on-site training and lectures to sportsturf students. Students and staff have also visited their factory at Ipswich to see for themselves what goes into the design, development and production of modern turf maintenance machinery, adding real value to classroom theory.
We use Bernhard grinders to maintain our mowers and, again, Bernhard staff regularly attend Myerscough to deliver theory and practical training to our students.
Our students are getting the best training available and have the opportunity to question industry experts in their field. Of course, this training and contact with staff from Ransomes Jacobsen and Bernhard has often included valuable CPD for teaching staff - again ensuring that they remain up to date with industry developments and technology.
On the matter of developing and maintaining the currency of our courses, we frequently consult with industry and representative organisations to ensure that out courses are fit for purpose and are developing students who can contribute positively to the future or our industry and, of course, maintain sports surfaces to the highest standards.
There are thousands of students out there around the world who learned 'their craft' at Myerscough and now hold significant positions in the industry today.
Here at Myerscough, we are proud of our long history and tradition, training tomorrow's turf professionals, and will continue to work with industry in this goal. We are keen to work with industry partners who are serious about education and training.
Stewart Brown, Assistant Head Greenspace & Creative Studies, Myerscough College